2001 and Beyond the Infinite

Commentary and Criticism

March 1997

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From: jonas@freenet.edmonton.ab.ca
Date: Sun, 2 Mar 1997 14:28:34 -0700

Consider this: Hal did not malfunction and kill Poole and the hibernauts
because of any simple programming error.  Hal was created as a sentient
being, capable of independent thinking by humans. He chose on his own to
carry out his orders as best as he saw fit. 
When God created Man in the Garden of Eden (I'm not religious myself, but
bear with me), He knew that He had no control over His Creation, and that
Adam or Eve would eventually eat that apple. What God did was create
something which He could not control. This is essentially what humans have
done with Hal, something that only Dr. Chandra ever seems to realise. 2001
takes Creation to the next level; while we are searching for our own
Creators, we create life ourselves which we are incapable of controlling. 
The three monoliths never really make decisions for humans; the one in the
past serves to train early humans, TMA-1  merely signals to
the Creators that humans have left their planet, and "Big Brother" seems
to be mainly a gateway, among other things. The existence of these
monoliths does not deprive us of our sovereignty, they are purely to help
us out of our crib, like a parent looking after a child. With us, though,
Hal is treated as a servile machine, which he clearly is not. 
These two facts help to spell out the central theme of 2001, and that is
of creation. In 2061, Europa has been turned into a thriving planet of
life.  I suspect that in Clarke's upcoming novel, 3001, we shall see the
conclusion of the theme.

Date: Fri, 7 Mar 1997 22:41:08 -0500 (EST)
From: eric [trip-e@psu.edu]

        Wow what an interesting essay. Since the movie was made before I
was born it took me quite a few years to experience it. I originally saw
it as a youngster and the music scores and other visual attractions were
enough to keep me occupied, but a few years ago I watched it again and it
had a whole new meaning. I definitely need to go watch it again now. 
        Anyway, a couple others have mentioned the chess game and I will
only agree that the struggle on that board parallels what happened with
HAL and Dave, except Dave won the real one. But on HAL and his motives and
tools more generally, as your view is that we make our tools and they are
the cause of good and evil, I'm one to believe they(the tools) are more an
extension of us and our values and the colossus tool was of course HAL. I
have to go back and watch the discussion again, but Im sure the defective
communication thingy (technical info) was not merely an error in HAL, it
may have been HAL's intentions to "make up something." Again I need to go
back and check the exacts but HAL's teacher was I think not the one who
held him to secrecy about the mission, so this was a new experience for
HAL and upon gaining more insight on how humans think, (once again tools
as merely a human extension) he started to display other human traits.
Some of my interests and early life influences (Isaac Asimov and his
robots!) and a general interest in AI, I could bore you more on "my"
theories on HAL. HAL is cool. Oh yea and once Dave shut down HAL and got
that message about the mission, that could have been a basic last chance
type of thing, ie HAL is off they haven't reached the destination yet so
something went wrong and Dave and Paul did not know the mission, so it
would be wise to tell whomever turned HAL off the mission. Because as far
as government agencies see it, THE mission is more important than which
tools complete it. In other words a back up plan.
        One more point, a few others have mentioned Nietszche's
Zarathustra and especially his view of Ubermensche (Overman, Superman etc)
exceeding what humans are now. Reading your essay there are a lot of
similar points, and I suggest to you if you haven't already, to read
Nietzsche's Zarathustra and more explicitly the first chapter, its
entitled The Three Metamorphoses. The similarities between this first
entry into Nietszche's thoughts and 2001 are striking. Anyway in a
metaphoric sense the three metamorphosises (meta, meta choo!) start as man
as a camel and a beast of burden, senseless (the apes and they were in a
desert also) then man becomes a lion (the future man, controller and
master of his environment) then the lion "...he seeks out his last master:
he wants to fight him and his last god; for ultimate victory he wants to
fight the great dragon" (Zarathustra ch1) to overcome his god and finally
transform into a child (baby). Coincidence? Anyway the child as Nietzsche
wrote and as in 2001 represents new values, innocence and a new beginning,
the next step of humanity throwing off old values and battling the last
evil (the great dragon and his values which is our beliefs of a god that
controls us or in some way whom we answer to for our actions). This
connection just occurred to me, so 2001 is definitely a thought provoking
film and a great film because of it.
        To address the other religious views, like in Zarathustra, God
and religious symbolism is strong as in 2001 so it makes sense, maybe 2001
is a retelling of Zarathustra and the epic quest to overcome ourselves to
make something better, what we now believe to be a god.

        Oh yea the food explanation is really funny, you CAN probably
explain most movies around food, but of course food is a basic need, just
as most movies have sex, water and oxygen. :)

Replies are welcome

Eric,   esh124@email.psu.edu

Date: Tue, 11 Mar 1997 16:41:39 -0500 (EST)
From: Liberal321@aol.com

i liked your page, your view points are indepth and quite interesting. The
whole concept around the monolith is so awesome to my mind. The monolith
means so much: its a space seed, tool, symbol of hope, peacefulness,
simplicity, structure, art, science, technology...and so on. Mankind was
given a tool to evolve among the animals and to suceed. What we choose to do
after the alien contact is our destiny. Its so awesome to imagine an alien
race so complex spreading the tools for life and the seeds of life and to 
push for life to evolve. To bad we havent reached a point where we become 
unselfish and spread out among the cosmos.........:-)

Date: Sat, 15 Mar 1997 01:21:39 +1000
From: "Matthew Bargenquast" [mbargo@ozemail.com.au]


First of all, congratulations for creating a website dedicated to an
intelligent discussion of what I believe is one of the best movies every
made. Until I found your web site I never believed so many people could feel
as passionately towards it as I did! I generally agree with much of what you
have to say, although every time I watch the movie the same question enter
my mind. Why did the aliens wish to carry out this experiment? After
watching the movie for the first time, my mind was brimming with ideas which
I thought I'd share with everyone.

(1) When the first monolith was placed on Earth four billion years ago,
could it be possible that the aliens were in fact trying to mould mankind
after their own selves? Perhaps even a race as technologically advanced as
their own still retained pride and ego and set about making any species
which showed promise like their own. This theory was backed up after reading
Clarke's "Lost Worlds of 2001", whereby in an early draft of the novel he
wrote that the aliens saw a likeness between the man-apes and their own
race, and decided to play a part in their evolution.

(2) Keeping with the above theme, perhaps the aliens were a dying race,
and in a final act of desperation, set about travelling the universe
creating (evolving?) close images of themselves on planets similar to their
own. Then maybe the aliens were, in their infancy, Star Childs, and Dave
Bowman has himself become a member of the alien race after entering the 
star gate.

(3) In the final scenes, whereby Dave Bowman is transformed into a Star
Child, could it be that the aliens, via the Stargate, used and moulded Dave
to become a form of watchdog/spy over the human race who would report and
sometimes intervene in their activities? (It could explain why, in the 
novel, he detonated the orbiting nuclear bomb, as perhaps that was what the
aliens wished)

As a final note, I would just like to add that I believe 2010 is a hideous
crime that goes against everything Stanley Kubrick tried hard to convey in
2001. I can only hope that the rumours that I have heard regarding Clarke
asking Kubrick to direct a movie version of 3001 are true...

Matt Bargenquast

Date: Sun, 16 Mar 1997 13:26:46 -0800
From: Jon & Katherine Zander [youarehere@earthlink.net]


        This was a great thing to read.  I first saw the film when I was
only five years old (1969) and I think the music and visuals were very
entertaining to a young boy.  Remember that NASA was about to really
land on the Moon and Star Trek was also helping to peak my Sci-Fi/Space
exploration interests at the time.

        I remember my parents and other adults having a hard time deciphering
the meaning of the film.  Occasionally, they would ask me what I
thought.  As a five-yaer-old, however, I could only express that you
just had to let the movie happen and only try to understand the basic
meanings of the story.  (It was harder to explain that point then than
now, obviously.)  Many of the adults, I noticed, were so engaged in
trying to understand every detail that they lost sight of the
possibility that some things in the film were meant to be mysterious. 
Because of this mental trap, many lost sight of the broader message
altogether.  What I understood from the very first time I saw the movie
was that the Monolith was a power beyond mankind that interfered or
changed mankind.  A pretty good start for a little kid, I think.

        Over the years, I thought I had a pretty good handle on 2001.  I have
also noticed that my comprhension of 2001 becomes more intricate as I
get older, and as my life changes through the natural progression from
childhood to adulthood.  Last week I saw the film again on TV, and I
found that it still reveals more of its meaning to me everytime I watch
it.  But there were many things I did not yet understand, usually
concepts dealing with hidden meanings and subtle connections, and the
order in which they are presented.  Your article has been the equivalent
of the Monolith for me in that I now understand the film better than
ever before and that it is okay to let parts of it remain a mystery.  I
am taking my own advice from my childhood and letting the film just
happen, but this time (and in the future) with an almost total
comprehension of its meaning.

        Something that strikes me (mentally, thank-you) while I write this is
that I was once someone who took part in employing tools of mass
destruction and that I was part of the double-edged sword called
technology.  I never saw weapons as being instruments of mankind's
development or progression, but rather something that could knock us
back a few centuries or so on the civilization scale.  Possibly, all the
way back to the starting blocks.  But I also realized that the
technology that spawned these weapons could also make the tools that
could help mankind.  I just never made the connection that we were
possibly slaves to our own creations--they could feed or kill us with
disregard to individuality.  In other words, what could you have done
personally if we did use the nuclear systems?  Nothing, all of mankind
would have suffered.  But I can also see the other edge now.  One of my
best friends died from one of those weapons, but not as a target--he was
the pilot.  I learned then that that specific use of technology can kill
both ways.  But so can many other tools that are designed to help us. 
Many technologies that help feed, clothe, transport, and protect us are
slowly killing us, too.  I wonder if we will be able to discard the
sword like Dave Bowman did?  And if we will need help in doing that?

Jon & Katherine Zander                     

Date: Sun, 30 Mar 1997 15:35:37 -0500 (EST)
From: PloovoT2@aol.com

I just read your thing about 2001 and 2010.  Your perception of 2001 was
pretty good, although you incorporated too much of the book into it.  The
book and the movie had many differences, let's say in the 2001, the
Discovery's mission was to Jupiter, and then onto Saturn.  But that's not
the purpose of my mail.  You are way too harsh on 2010, infact you sound
alot like my brother when it comes to 2001.  First off 2010 IS a sequel to
2001, whether or not you like it.  The book 2010 and the movie 2010 are
almost alike word for word.  That means that the creator of 2001, the
entire idea of it, willed there to be a sequel.  And as for the differences
for the book and movie for 2001, the movie is like a mini retelling of the
book.  All factors in 2001 the movie, were in 2001 the book.  And Heywood
Floyd is no "typical movie hero" no way, he's no Mr. Perfect.  You saw how
he conned the NCA chairman into lying to the president about the nature of
the reason Floyd wanted to goto Jupiter.  And when Hal said that his
instructor was "Mr. Langley" , that was probably a malfunction, considering
that he was in a completely vegetative state, and he had probably said "Dr.
Chandra" when he had actually performed.  And as for the 2 sun things, that
was in the book, written by Arthur C. Clarke, the all out creator of 2001.
And as for your thing about how it would be critical to earth to have 2
suns, Lucifer "the new sun" is a tiny mini sun almost.  It looks only about
triple the size of Alpha Centauri.  And it's only a fraction the size of
the first sun, which is small compared to other suns in the universe.  What
you said about the "destruction" of 2001 special effects, that just plain
doesn't make sense. 2001 was pre Star Wars, after Star Wars came out., the
typical american audience wanted great special effects with auditory aid.
Naturally, if 2001 were to be made post-Star Wars, it would be the same.
And even the pickiest of people have to realise that Stanley Kubrick hadn't
made it, it wouldn't have been as "modern" as some would call it.  "But
2001: A Space Odyssey will always stand alone."  Now come on, you and I
BOTH know that 2010 IS a sequel to 2001.  Even if you think it is terrible,
it IS  a sequel.  Arthur Clarke, himself, wrote the sequel, he was the
father of the entire concept of 2001. You seem to contribute 2001 mostly to
Stanley Kubrick, what he did was take the great book 2001 and put it on
screen.  So the father of 2001, wrote 2010 AS A SEQUEL.  Even if you don't
want to believe 2010 is a sequel, IT IS. Believe it.  Hey, do you think I
WANT to believe that Ghostbusters II is a sequel to Ghosbusters, I don't
want it to be, but unforunately, it is a sequel.  And the aliens didn't
make Lucifer to save earth, they made it to support life on Europa.  Thank
you for listening to 2010's side of your accusations. Goodbye.

[continued in a second letter]

As you pointed out, the people in 2010 walked around normally onboard the
Leonov.  The reason they could do this was because it was a spinning ship.
 Arthur C Clarke has got Ph.ds in this stuff, he knows that the only way
artificial gravity could be created would be if the ship was spinning.  And
as for the the when Floyd let the pen fly up, that was probably one of the
rooms where they used the velcro walks and shoes.  And about how you said
they it was so not like the aliens to use the monoliths to turn Jupiter
into a sun, well the aliens could never just do anything by just wanting
to, they use the monoliths to carry out their actions, do you remember any
point where they just did something by snapping their fingers?

Date: 31 Mar 1997 18:47:42 EDT
From: cerebus@iss.dccc.edu

Well, after reading you essay, I have to say it was facinating. But
regarding 2001, the novel is a fine piece of work, but in my opinion,
the movie is,bluntly,a piece of shit(sorry if I offend you, I respect
your liking of the film). What I see in the film(outside of the
outstanding "Dawn of Man")is a bunch of eye candy that are supposed to
carry a 2 1/2 hour story through outer space. Yes the environment is
realistic, but the fact is, I find it boring. Dave and Frank sit there
brooding and just sitting around hardly ever talking. If you were cooped
up in a ship for 2 years with only one other person to talk to I would
definatley engage in more conversation. If I had not read the book
before I saw the film I would have been utterly lost. And when we
finally reach the ending of this droll "look at the neat stuff we can do
with models" film. We are treated to an acid trip with no explanation of
what is happening, while the novel goes into great detail on the
subject. ]
  In regards to Star Wars and Trek, well, SW ships were SUPPOSED to be
like WWII fighters flying around, and the sound is added to enhance
excitement. Lucas didn't care about realism, he just wanted a cool
ending for his Sci-Fi flick. The same goes for Trek. When you look at
it, a TV series w/o sound half the time is pretty darn dull, and
Paramount knows it. True, neither of these films are accurate in their
physics, but if you want shows like that, that DO pay attention. I
suggest you turn to Japanese Animation. Space Battleship Yamato(known in
 US as Star Blazers) always has the ship thrusting in the correct
direction for movement(as well as the fighters). In Mobile Suit Gundam.
all mechs, fighters etc. thrust and move according to zero-gee
conditions. And since there is no artificial gravity on these vessels,
they move about inside properly as well.
  Thank you for reading my ranting. As you can tell, I do not like 2001
the film, but love the books, and hope to buy 3001 ASAP. Please try
these alternatives, as I think you would find the high drama(and
charachter development as well as action)to be some of the most little
known, but best Sci-Fi out there

                   Thank you again

                               Jeff Kleist